A Forgotten Gem: The Reebok Slipstream

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Let me start off by saying that the Reebok Slipstream is one of my absolute favorite shoes in my collection. I’ll be taking you though the design language, technical aspects, and other interesting facets of this minimalist basketball shoe from 1996-1997.

First, the design. The shoe, in my opinion, is gorgeous. The Slipstream has just a bit of that classic 90s bulk but not enough to overpower the more subtle design elements. The black and white build is striking to say the least. The name, Slipstream, can truly be seen when examining every aspect of the shoe. The outsole flaunts similar design cues as the Reebok Kamikaze I (designed by Ricardo Vestuti) and Kamikaze II (designed by Jon Morris) and has striations on each pod that resemble moving water. The white of the outsole always looked like a zigzagging stream to me.

The upper is real nubuck, something many modern sneakers haven’t had in a long time, and the toes featured small interesting embossed waves that echo the design language on the rest of the shoe. As you can see in the photos, the upper is tonal, and shows three different blacks. While some may think the tonal black look is a new thing, it isn’t; Reebok had been doing it on a few different models in the mid-90s.

The midsole is huge, and at the heel (on the medial side) the midsole is actually over an 1/8th of an inch taller than the upper above it. The white section on the midsole that separates the upper from the outsole is very dynamic and fluid looking; it allows the three pods below it to really pop and creates enough contrast to highlight the streamlined indentations in the pods to be seen. Constructed of polyurethane, the midsole had suspended Ultra Hexalite cushioning that spanned the full 180º of the heel. This is one of the few Reebok models to have the Hexalite unit almost completely covered by the midsole, save for the sliver that is visible on the lateral side of the shoe. Unfortunately, due to the polyurethane of the time, the midsoles disintegrate over time. It is incredibly unlikely that there are any wearable DS pairs out there, no matter how well they have been preserved.

You may now be thinking, “the Slipstream looks a lot like the Question Mid,” and you’d be half right. The overall shape is very similar to the 1996 Reebok Question but the Slipstream fixes a lot of the issues the Question had. Most importantly, the Slipstream has a flat tongue and not the curved asymmetrical tongue of the Question (that always slides over to one side of your foot as you walk). This means that the Slipstream looks much better with jeans, as the flat tongue doesn’t bunch your jeans and create that weird gap like the Question does. The Slipstream also featured a ghilly lacing system that allowed the thick black rope laces a much more elegant look. Interestingly, the Reebok sneakers of this period arrived in their boxes unlaced so the wearer had free reign to lace however they pleased. No matter how you lace the Slipstream, it always looks fresh. Additionally, the Slipstream is much more comfortable than the Question; with a ton more cushion underfoot and very plush soft guts, it’s a joy on feet. And like the Question, the Slipstream appeared on the NBA hardwood, gracing the feet of Reebok athletes who didn’t have their own signature models.

Finally, the box; the old school blue Reebok box is the classiest shoe box of all time, period. Featuring big and bold Reebok vectors in white, with the corresponding third vector in red, the box is simple and recognizable. Reebok should bring really bring these boxes back! The old school boxes are thinner and made from much less cardboard, making them light and a bit flexible, but still sturdy. My favorite thing about the old Reebok box is the top; flip it over and it has a long list of shoe care instructions to, “maintain the quality and appearance of your Reebok footwear.” Show me a Nike or Jordan box with that on it!

The Reebok Slipstream is one of my favorite vintage Reebok basketball silhouettes of all time. The simplicity, elegance, and 90s feel is unmatched by any other shoe I can think of and the design is truly understated. It’s a shame there’s almost no chance Reebok will ever bring these back. If you’d like to see the this shoe in living color the OG kicksreason did a phenomenal video on his pair; I’ve included it below.

Would you buy a retro of the Reebok Slipstream? Let me know in the comments.


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Noah Goldowitz, otherwise known as @TheShoeRestorer on Instagram, is a long time sneaker fanatic and vintage sneaker lover with a deep passion for all things sneaker related.